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Aviva Premiership: Northampton battle to a hard-fought victory
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Northampton cemented their position behind table-toppers Saracens with battling Aviva Premiership victory at London Irish.
Full-back James Wilson crossed for Saints in the first half and fly-half Stephen Myler kicked 14 points as they made it five league wins from seven matches with a 19-14 success.
Wing Sailosi Tagicakibau grabbed the Irish try with number 10 Ian Humphreys adding his side's extras with the boot.
All eyes were on controversial Australian James O'Connor who took centre stage for his Irish debut just a few days after signing a contract until the end of the season.
The versatile 23-year-old Queenslander, who has amassed 223 points in 44 caps for the Wallabies, took his bow at full-back and impressed throughout with his running skills as he seeks to rebuild his career following a series of off-field misdemeanours.
O'Connor was in the thick of the action from the start with a pass which almost put wing Topsy Ojo in for a try. But he was powerless to stop Saints from taking the lead as a Myler penalty pushed them ahead after Irish infringed at a ruck.
Humphreys replied for the hosts after Northampton were guilty of illegally playing the ball on the ground at a ruck.
Saints power ahead
Myler regained the lead for Saints with a penalty which deflected over off the inside of the right post and Wilson raced over for the opening try, cutting in off the right wing and taking a reverse pass from George Pisi in his stride to go over the line virtually untouched.
Myler converted and added a further penalty as Saints showed no signs of missing their England contingent of Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Lee Dickson and Ben Foden.
Humphreys slotted home a three-pointer in between Myler's conversion and third penalty success and Irish suddenly found an extra gear on the stroke of half-time with quick ball from a ruck being swept along the line and O'Connor's final pass to Tagicakibau put the wing over for a fine try.
Trailing 16-11 at half-time, Irish were right back in the contest. However, they failed to build on that promise and they were unable to force their way over in the second period despite a dogged effort.
O'Connor showed his class and skill with a silky run through the Saints defence before being stopped in his tracks. Humphreys missed a difficult penalty chance but succeeded with his next effort to close the gap to just two points.
However, Myler responded in kind with his own penalty and Irish's late pressure - with one move lasting 25 phases - failed to break the Saints resolve.
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Aviva Premiership Table
|Friday 5th September|
|19:45||Northampton vs Gloucester|
|Saturday 6th September|
|14:00||Sale vs Bath|
|14:00||Saracens vs Wasps|
|15:00||Leicester vs Newcastle|
|16:30||London Irish vs Harlequins|
|Sunday 7th September|
|14:00||London Welsh vs Exeter|
|Friday 12th September|
|19:45||Harlequins vs Saracens|
|Saturday 13th September|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Sale|
|15:00||Bath vs London Welsh|
|15:15||Exeter vs Leicester|
|Sunday 14th September|
|14:00||Wasps vs Northampton|
|15:00||Newcastle vs London Irish|
|Friday 19th September|
|19:45||Gloucester vs Exeter|
|Saturday 20th September|
|14:00||Sale vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Wasps|
|15:00||London Irish vs Saracens|
|15:15||Bath vs Leicester|
|Sunday 21st September|
|14:00||Newcastle vs Northampton|
|Friday 26th September|
|19:45||London Welsh vs Gloucester|
|Saturday 27th September|
|15:00||Leicester vs London Irish|
|15:00||Saracens vs Sale|
|15:15||Northampton vs Bath|
|Sunday 28th September|
|14:00||Wasps vs Newcastle|
|14:00||Exeter vs Harlequins|
|Friday 3rd October|
|19:45||Bath vs Saracens|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com